International Peace Operations Part I

International Peace Operations Part I

In a conflict, there is often a myriad of regional and international actors who want to contribute to resolving the conflict. Who are these actors, and how do they work together? In this article, we look at Mali, where the conflict, despite great commitment from the world community, has been raging for six years.

  • How does the UN get involved in conflicts?
  • What other players take part?
  • What happened when international actors intervened in Mali?
  • What is the situation like in Mali today?

In a globalized world, we are often very dependent on each other. This means that something that happens in a country can have major consequences for a country far away. Although most conflicts today are internal , many states and international organizations are militarily involved in other countries.

It is safeguarding Council , which consists of five permanent countries and ten rolls duck members, who can approve peacekeeping duck operations . The Security Council can either ask the UN to send civilian experts and soldiers, or encourage regional organizations or individual countries to do so.

The fact that the UN’s member states send civilian experts, police and soldiers to another country, testifies to an interest in what is happening and how it affects oneself. It also testifies to a particularly great challenge in the country or region that the international community believes it can help tackle.

2: How the UN is involved

The Security Council is a central part of the UN, an organization that consists of virtually all countries and areas in the world. The Security Council’s task is to prevent, handle and resolve (armed) conflicts. In the extreme, the Security Council can decide that an intervention that includes soldiers and police is important for maintaining peace and security in the world. If they decide this, this is often seen as international law. Without approval, an intervention could be very controversial, such as the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The UN has so far sent out 71 peacekeeping operations that are meant to contribute to the difficult transition from war to peace. These operations consist of civilian experts, soldiers and police. The tasks are varied and include protecting civilians, promoting human rights and supporting the organization of political elections and dialogue. Peacekeeping operations have often had the mandate , as a task, to ensure that the parties to a conflict abide by a peace agreement or ceasefire. In several examples, the UN has stepped in at the request of the parties.

Today, there are most internal wars, and it is largely this type of conflict that the UN must deal with. This is a major challenge, as the principle of the UN’s use of military force is consent, to be impartial and to use the least possible force. Here, consent is perhaps the biggest challenge, because one cannot intervene if the authorities in the country do not want it. This is based on the principle of state sovereignty. Nevertheless, the UN Security Council can intervene if it sees great potential for the conflict to pose a danger to international peace and security, for example through the principle of Responsibility to protect .

A development in recent years has been that the Security Council has on several occasions asked the UN to send soldiers and police to areas marked by conflict and hostilities. For example, the UN operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Mali are characterized by taking place in very unstable countries. Here, the UN tries to contribute to stability in part by taking part in hostilities, something that is very controversial and criticized by many. The most concrete example comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the UN’s peacekeeping operations were given a mandate to “neutralize” several rebel groups.

3: Other actors

In addition to asking the UN to carry out operations, the Security Council can also ask regional organizations, such as NATO, or individual countries to carry out tasks in other countries.

Perhaps the most important partner of the UN, however, is the African Union (AU) . Like the UN, the AU, which consists of almost all African countries, has an apparatus for sending out peace operations. But the AU’s operations typically have a more military character than the UN. It is common for AU to ask one of several regional organizations in Africa, such as West African ECOWAS, to carry out these operations. In the Mali example, which we study below, ECOWAS took part.

In all its peace operations, AU has a mandate from the Social Security Council. As of today, AU is taking part in three major peace operations. In Somalia they lead the operation, and in Darfur in Sudan they share responsibility with the UN. In Mali, they moved in first, and then handed over responsibility to the UN. Many believe it is important that regional organizations, mainly AU, play a more important role in resolving conflicts in their own regions.

The EU also takes part in international military operations. Through its foreign policy, the EU wants to play a greater role in world peace and security issues, but compared to forces from the AU, the EU is reluctant to participate in hostilities.

Individual countries, also on a mandate from the Social Security Council, can intervene militarily in other countries with the aim of contributing to stability. Individual countries may have large military forces or other characteristics that make them the best or willing. As we will see in the example of Mali, this applies to France. France was the former colonial power in Mali, and still has a close relationship with the country.

4: The trial in Mali

Mali, a country located in Africa according to, is a relatively large country, about three times as large as Norway, with around 18 million inhabitants. The country lies west of the Sahara desert and is very dry and waterlogged with the exception of the Niger River which flows from southwest to east. Historically, Mali was a French colony. For decades, primarily in the north, various armed groups have challenged the Malian state’s control and authority. In the south, where the majority of the population lives, and where the capital Bamako is located, the state has better control.

In 2012, the conflict flared up again between Malian authorities and independence movements in the north of the country. An armed group consisting mainly of the nomadic Tuareg population was initially supported by several other armed actors in the fight against Malian authorities. But after a quarter of an hour, several of these groups also started fighting against each other.

The UN has sent out a total of 71 peace operations